Before George Lucas alienated legions of grown adult Star Wars fans with Jar Jar Binks, an entire movie about trade negotiations, “midi-chlorians,” pod-racing, and Hayden Christensen, he alienated legions of grown adult Star Wars fans with two words: “Special Editions.”
The 1997 Special Edition theatrical re-releases of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return Of The Jedi were Lucas’s first attempt at tinkering with his greatest legacy, and the results were not very good: CGI creatures were added to seemingly every frame, the cloying “easter egg”-style coincidences that would come to define the prequel trilogy began popping up (hey, Jabba the Hutt, needed to see you in this movie all of the sudden!), and Greedo shoots at Han before Han shoots at Greedo for reasons that remain unclear unless the goal was to make Han Solo 20% less cool.
Between the disappointing prequels and the Special Editions–which remain the only in-print versions of the original Star Wars trilogy to this day–Lucas’s name attached to the Star Wars saga he built makes fans nervous, which is why, when Disney bought the series in late 2012, there was a cautious optimism in the Force. What would new Star Wars movies made by someone who understood the appeal of the franchise better than George Lucas seemed to at this point look like?
The answer came on Friday, when the first trailer for JJ Abrams’s Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens was released. Full of uncluttered frames, iconic imagery, cool droids and lightsabers we’ve never seen before, it inspired a lot of optimism among fans. Which means, of course, that some joker had to make a “Special Edition” version of it. That joker is Australian filmmaker Michael Shanks, and his “George Lucas’s Special Edition” version of the trailer hit YouTube over the weekend. It’s a pretty good gag: There are little CGI Jabba the Hutts everywhere, seemingly every frame is loaded with unnecessary and distracting CGI insertions that serve no purpose, and it’s noisy for no reason. It actually makes for a pretty effective comment on the effectiveness of Abrams’s vision for Star Wars: clean, simple, evocative imagery and storytelling, rather than a fascination with new ways to implement technical innovation. Anybody complaining about the actual Force Awakens trailer should be pretty pumped that they’re getting this version, rather than what Lucas might have come up with.